Objective. Thrombospondin 1 (TSP1) is a potent active site inhibitor of leukocyte elastase and cathepsin G. This effect is markedly dependent on the disulfide-bond conformation of TSP1, with one isoform, TSP1(0.1) being the most potent, The aims of this study were to examine the expression of different disulfide-bonded isoforms of TSP1 in inflammatory environments in which elastase and cathepsin G are present in variable amounts, and to determine the relationship between these proteinases and their potential inhibitor.
Methods. Immunohistochemical staining and histomorphometric analysis were used to examine adjacent sections of synovial tissue from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), and meniscal trauma (MT), for expression of TSP1 and the TSP1(0.1) isoform, elastase, cathepsin G, and chymase.
Results, TSP1 localized to vessels and cells within the synovium, TSP1 expression was highly up-regulated in RA (mean density 98 cells and vessels/mm(2), compared with 13/mm(2) in OA and 17/mm(2) in MT), The TSP1(0.1) isoform was found virtually exclusively in RA, with 44% of vascular TSP1 staining being due to the TSP1(0.1) isoform In RA, as compared with 7% in OA (P = 0.0047). Elastase-and cathepsin G-positive cells were abundant in RA, with mean densities of 106 cells/mm(2) and 103 cells/mm(2), respectively, compared with 2 cells/mm(2) and 11 cells/mm(2) in OA. There was a nide range of both TSP1 and proteinase expression within the RA group, but samples containing large numbers of elastase-and cathepsin G-positive cells also showed high expression of TSP1, especially TSP1(0.1). A strong correlation was found between elastase or cathepsin G densities and TSP1(0.1) expression in blood vessels (r = 0.86 and r = 0.76 respectively, P <0.01).
Conclusion. TSP1(0.1), with the most potent inhibitory activity in vitro, is specifically up-regulated in RA, and this up-regulation is in proportion to the numbers of surrounding leukocytes containing elastase and cathepsin G. One role of TSP1 may be to act as a matrix-based regulator of leukocyte-derived serine proteinases in vivo.
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